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Toyota and Honda serve best

Podium finish: Honda has finished equal first with Toyota in this year's JD Power customer service index.

Subaru drops back as Toyota, Honda lead the pack in Australian car servicing study

27 Nov 2012

TOYOTA and Honda can lay claim to providing the highest level of service in Australia among mainstream brands, with both taking top honours in the third annual customer service index (CSI) study released today by global marketing information firm JD Power.

This is the first time either Japanese brand has emerged as the standout performer in the influential study, which measures Australian new-vehicle buyer satisfaction with the aftersales service process.

Both scored 809 points out of a maximum 1000, providing an important insight into the performance of not only each brand’s retail network but the actions of their head offices in fostering customer loyalty and goodwill after testing the public’s patience last year with supply restrictions caused by natural disasters in Japan and Thailand.

JD Power said both companies performed particularly well in service initiation, which is one of the key measures examined to determine overall customer satisfaction with dealer service. The others are service quality, vehicle pick-up, service advisor and service facility.

With Toyota, which has climbed from third place last year and increased its index rating by five points, the result shows the runaway Australian market leader – up 19.6 per cent this year in vehicle sales – is working hard to hang on to customers once they drive off the forecourt in a new vehicle.

Honda, on the other hand, has maintained its reputation for high standards of quality and service during a difficult trading period in which it has not bounced back as strongly as its rivals in terms of sales.

While Honda sales are up 8.9 per cent this year, the company is well behind the volume it has come to expect in previous years – to the tune of 6000 units year to date – although the launch this month of the long-anticipated CR-V compact SUV should be a turning point.

Honda’s equal-first place in the CSI ranking also comes despite falling two points compared to last year, when the brand placed second behind Subaru.

Subaru has this year fallen to third place on 805 points, down a significant 10 points on last year’s outstanding result, while Mazda, the inaugural 2010 Australian CSI winner, is fourth on 801 – up nine points to be ahead of Mitsubishi (in fifth on 791) after last year falling to sixth place and below the industry average for overall customer satisfaction.

This year’s average is down two points to 791, which JD Power attributes to a decline in scores in three key areas: quality (-5 points), service advisor (-8) and service facility (-6).

There are some worrying signs for brands that continue to place below the industry average, particularly Toyota’s fellow local manufacturers Ford and Holden, as well as those companies with ambitions of becoming leading importers on the Australian market, such as Nissan, Volkswagen and Hyundai.

Kia (784) and Hyundai (783) hold firm in sixth and seventh place respectively on the CSI rankings, despite both South Korean brands turning in lower point scores this year (Kia: -3, Hyundai: -8), while Holden (779) has managed to step up a rung, moving to eighth this year – ahead of Ford – with an eight-point improvement.

Ford (775) has dropped five points to be in ninth place, while Nissan, which is anticipating massive sales growth on the back of its reborn Pulsar due for release on February 1, clearly has work to do in the aftersales area, dropping from equal eighth last year to 10th with a 13-point decline – the biggest drop of any brand ranked in the study.

Suzuki, meanwhile, was the biggest improver, up 22 points this year to 764, which was enough to see it move ahead of Volkswagen to take 11th spot.

VW could manage only 12th place with 757 points in this year’s CSI rankings – down seven points on last year and 34 points behind the industry average.

As was the case in previous years, a number of other brands – Audi, BMW, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Volvo – were included in the study but not ranked due to insufficient sample size.

The results were based on responses from 4300 owners who purchased vehicles between August 2007 and September 2012 and who had their vehicle serviced between August 2011 and September this year.

JD Power Asia Pacific executive director Mohit Arora said this year’s study highlighted that communication with owners before their car was due for service was a key factor in improving the overall satisfaction of the service experience.

Providing an estimate of how long the service would take improved overall satisfaction by 105 points, compared to those owners who were not given an estimate, while simply notifying owners when their vehicle needed a service improved satisfaction by 40 points.

“Proactive communication during pre-service helps pave the way for a highly satisfying vehicle owner experience,” said Mr Arora.

“Owners prefer to be updated by the network on their service due dates, as well advised during vehicle drop-off of the time to pick up the vehicle. These simple steps help to create a positive first impression about the network’s ability to deliver a quality aftersales experience.” Mr Arora added that the implementation of standard service procedures, such as ‘work done right the first time’ and ‘vehicle ready when promised’, has a direct impact on a customer’s overall satisfaction.

JD Power found that a minimum of 12 such procedures or standards were required for these to have a positive impact on overall customer satisfaction scores.

Yet over the past two years, almost a third of vehicle owners have indicated that they have received 10 or fewer standards. Among these owners, satisfaction with the service process overall is 85 points below the industry average.

“Service standards are building blocks of a thorough service experience,” Mr Arora said.

“It is important that the network places significant importance in ensuring administration of all these standards to mitigate dissatisfaction and ensure service consistency.” As the CSI study has shown in previous years, vehicle owners who are highly satisfied with the overall service experience – that is, with scores averaging above 895 – tend to have higher levels of advocacy and loyalty toward both the dealership and the brand, compared with less-satisfied owners (scores averaging below 713).

Of those ‘highly satisfied’ owners, 81 per cent said they would ‘definitely’ revisit their service dealer for post-warranty service. In contrast, only 12 per cent of ‘highly dissatisfied’ customers said the same.

Similarly, 72 per cent of highly satisfied customers said they would recommend the vehicle brand to friends and relatives, compared with only 33 per cent of those were were highly dissatisfied.

2012 JD Power customer service index:
Brand Points
Honda 809
Toyota 809
Subaru 805
Mazda 801
Mitsubishi 791
Kia 784
Hyundai 783
Holden 779
Ford 775
Nissan 767
Suzuki 764
Volkswagen 757

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